Post-Fire Meeting in Vermaaklikheid, January 18th 2019

Present: 

Duivenhoks Conservancy – John Thorne, Abie Pretorius

DEA: NRM, – Mr Japie Buckle

Garden Route Environmental forum (GREF) – Cobus Meiring 

Southern Cape Fire Protection Agency – Charl Wade, Philip Wilken

Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) – Rhett Hiseman

Thank you for the visit to Vermaaklikheid. The data provided at the Lourensford Wildfire Conference (December 2018) according to my memory was that 3500 Ha was burnt in the October 2018 fire.  

We (Officials from GREF, SCFPA, SCLI, DEA:NRM and GCBR) toured some of the areas of the burnt veld around the village and noted dense areas of small rooikrans seedlings starting to appear in certain areas.  In other areas there was minimal alien regrowth. A number indigenous pioneer plant species have also started to appear. In many areas the ground was baked hard by the heat of the fire with minimal topsoil remaining. During our visit it was evident that the strong SW wind was blowing away remaining topsoil. Some soil erosion mitigation interventions might be needed in future to prevent further soil loss.

Japie Buckle (DEA:NRM) stressed that now (next 12 months) is the time to remove the seedlings while they are small ( between 5cm and 60cm tall) and easily pulled out. However this is a huge undertaking due to the extent of the fire. Invasive Alien plants (IAP) control is the responsibility of the Individual landowners and they will need to fund the rehabilitation of their properties. The rooikrans stands (Acacia cyclops) will be even denser after the fire (due to massive long lived seed loads in the ground) if the situation is not addressed effectively.

It is important to note that if the land is not rehabilitated it will lose its value and rather than be an asset, it will become a liability as alien regrowth increases future fire risk and further degrades the land. It is important that landowners act now!

DEA: Natural Recourses Management (NRM), Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) and Southern Cape Fire Protection Association (SCFPA) will assist the Duivenhoks Conservancy & landowners where possible with:

  • developing a IAP control and rehabilitation plan for the area (GREF)
  • providing herbicide & training how to use it.
  • supporting the enforcement of local regulations around alien clearing.
  • technical assistance regarding best practice

We agreed the following: 

  • SCFPA will provide cadastral map of properties in the burnt area to DEA, copied to myself. Some of the properties will fall inside the conservancy and some outside. 
  • DEA: NRM will facilitate through GREF to produce a map that overlay burnt area map with previous IAP invested area to produce an IAP control and rehabilitation plan.
  • We schedule a meeting in the village (in March) to present plan to landowners. The objective is to get buy-in for the implementation of the plan. This will be a jointly convened by Duivenhoks Conservancy and SCFPA.
  • At the same meeting the Fire management unit will be discussed.

Initial thoughts regarding implementation process:

  • Train up a team in the village to pull seedlings and spray dense infested areas with herbicides. 
  • Landowners will fund this process.
  • Conservancy will attempt to raise further funding to partially subsidise the costs. 

Risks & challenges highlighted:

  • Costs of rehabilitation and the fact that some landowners will not be able to afford this process. 
  • Erosion of burnt slopes
  • Loss of fynbos due to longstanding aliens and heat caused by the fire. 

I think this is all for now. 

regards

John Thorne

Chairman, Duivenhoks Conservancy

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